Mother’s Day (on May 12 this year) is a great excuse to spend time with Mom. Go against the crowds this year and celebrate just before or shortly after the official calendar holiday; better yet – plan several celebrations throughout the month of May!
My Mom and I plan to have one of our May celebrations at the Ballet this year. Boston Ballet will have two productions running at the Boston Opera House by mid-May: classic full-length fairytale Cinderella (May 10-June 3) and contemporary Rhapsody (May 16-June 9), a mixed repertoire program featuring works by Balanchine, Leonid Yakobson, and Boston Ballet’s own Paulo Arrais.
Misa Kuranaga and Jeoffrey Cirio in Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella; Photo Gene Schiavone Courtesy by Boston Ballet
Isaac Akiba and Brittany Stone n Yakobson’s Rodin; Photo by Igor Burlak’s Photography; Courtesy of Boston Ballet.
Boston Theater Marathon (in its 21st year) is on Sunday, May 19th this year. This is where “bad girls” take their adventurous theater moms – as 50 selected New England playwrights put on their 10-minute plays from noon to 10pm (you can come and go as you please with your day ticket; at the Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts). (Word of caution: the plays are not suited for young kids; follow this link for tickets)
I plan to have another celebration with Mom (and family) – on a day trip to Newport, Rhode Island. We might visit one of the historic mansions, but we might also just do the Cliff Walk (considered one of the most beautiful walks in the country). You could visit a winery nearby, or – to feel like a true tourist for a day- take a trolley tour all the way to Castle Inn. For more Newport activities, check the town’s official destination website.
Gooseberry Cove in Newport, Rhode Island, was our stop on the trolley tour
You could also plan a day trip to Cape Cod. Walk on one of the National Seashore’s beaches in Eastham or visit Heritage Museums and Gardensin Sandwich (with its largest public garden in Southern New England). Mothers receive free admission on May 12.
Historic cars collection at the Heritage Museums and Gardens
HOUSE MUSEUMS have a special place in my heart (and on my weekends’ agenda).
The Mount, writer Edith Wharton’s house museum in Lennox in the Berkshires opens its doors for the season on May 11 (with house and garden tours).
Mark Twain’s house museum in Hartford, Connecticut is open for tours all-year long (I suggest to book tickets in advance, as they do sell out on weekends). I took this photo on our visit in March but I can guarantee there is no snow on the ground now!
Historical houses are part of the unique collection of Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA with every major American architectural style on display (houses and neighborhoods are located nearby within the city of Salem- check the link above for more information).
Day trips to the islands of Martha’s Vineyardor Nantucket (from the docks in Hyannis or Falmouth) require a little bit of planning, but could certainly be enjoyed.
View from the observation deck, Aquinnah Cliffs, Martha
If you’d rather stay in Boston, The Arnold Arboretum will celebrate its annual Lilac Sunday with the country’s premier lilac collection on May 12 this year (picnicking is allowed on the grounds but parking will be limited).
Photo Courtesy: Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
My favorite Boston walk is Rose Kennedy Greenway – a 1.5 mile park along the Atlantic avenue in Boston- with outdoor markets, art, seven water fountains and its own carousel (open for the season!). There is currently a new “hyper realistic” mural on display (by artist Super A). Check out their website for full list of events.
On Boston’s Greenway
It is very likely that Mom and I will have our third celebration in May- this time at the Boston’s Museum of Fine Art. Frida Kahlo and Art Popular are still on display (through June 19) as is Gender Bending Fashion (through August 25), but we will be there to explore Toulous-Latrec and the Stars of Paris (through August 4).You may want to take your Mom to see Botticelli Exhibit (closes on May 19) at the Isabella Gardner’s Museum, or (depending on her artistic preferences) to the Museum Highlights Tour at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston’s waterfront (followed by the Harbor Walk).
I could not believe my eyes when I opened the curtains on a Saturday morning this weekend (at the end of March!) and saw the new snow on the ground! But any flurries in the forecast have settled down in time for our mom-daughter outing to the Boston Ballet’s Coppelia. Even if the weather is a little behind this year, I can guarantee you the spring on stage as Boston Ballet presents George Balanchine’s Coppélia, a full-length comedic story ballet, set to music by Léo Delibes, at the Boston Opera House March 21–31.
M. Kuranaga and B. Dosev in George Balanchine Coppelia; credits @George Balanchine Trust and Boston Ballet. Photo: Rosalie O’Connor.
Official press-release notes that “the story, based upon the book by Charles Nuitter, after “Der Sandmann” by E.T.A. Hoffman, is a lighthearted comedy set in a country village about a life-size dancing doll created by Doctor Coppélius. The life-like doll becomes the source of love troubles for a village couple, Swanilda and Frantz, when Frantz mistakes the doll for a real girl and becomes infatuated with it. Mayhem and hilarity ensue.”
My 9-year old daughter thought that it was “about a doll who wanted to see the real world”. Whatever your interpretation, the 3-act ballet is full of color – the characters, the set, the dancing, the costumes- all come alive and make for “delightful ballet” (according to Boston Ballet Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen).
FUN FACTS: The story is set in a village in Carpathian Galicia (present-day Poland and Ukraine), and the villagers dance both the mazurka and the csárdás. The mayor wears a Napoleonic hat, and the sign announcing the third act’s Festival of Bells is in French.
Boston Ballet’s principal dancers trained in the ballet traditions from around the world are truly brought together by Balanchine’s classic choreography. Both principals that were on stage for the Saturday matinee performance we attended on March 23 Ji Young Chae, as Swanilda and Junxiong Zhao, as Fantz -were precise and playful. Newest Boston Ballet principal dancer Viktoria Kapitonova from Russia was dazzling in War and Discord (part of third act divertissements; (you can see her dance Swanilda on March 30 at 1:30). (See Full casting details here).
Boston Ballet’s Coppelia. credits @George Balanchine Trust and Boston Ballet. Photo: Rosalie O’Connor.
Boston Ballet premiered Coppélia in 2010 and last performed it in 2013. My daughter (who was then three years old) attended the 2013 production. She may not remember all the details now (or any details, to be honest), but family outings at the ballet have been an important part of her upbringing. Not every ballet is of course suitable for a three-year old (and you know your child better) but Coppelia with its life-sized ballet dancer-dolls could potential keep the attention of the very young viewers. There are two dozen Boston Ballet School students dancing the Waltz of the Golden Hours in Act 3. Similarly to the Nutcracker, the third act is a set of divertissements (and a pas de deux for newly reunited Frantz and Swanilda). But “…the Nutcracker is a lot more predictable,”- summarized my date.
Approx. running time is is 2hrs 20 minutes including 2 intermissions.
For a special (get one- get one free) ticketing offer to my readers follow this link to Boston Ballet’s ticket site – the offer “CELEBRATE” should be factored into the price http://bit.ly/2HvYUdC.
All performances of Coppélia will take place at the Boston Opera House (539 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111).
Thursday, Mar 28 at 7:30 pm
Friday, Mar 29 at 7:30 pm*
Saturday, Mar 30 at 1:30 pm
Saturday, Mar 30 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, Mar 31 at 1:30 pm
As a family, we try to take advantage of Boston’s world class cultural attractions every chance we get. Attending Boston Pops Orchestra’s Kids Holiday Matinee at the Symphony Hall seemed festively appropriate for December holidays, but when we first attended a couple of years ago, we had no idea what to expect. So we put together this post for you with all the details!
This December-2018 my daughter asked me to go back to the Symphony for the Holidays, and I willingly obliged!
Attending a Holiday Pops Kids Matinee has been on a traditional holiday to do list for many local families who often share this tradition with several generations of family members (read about other Boston holidays must do‘s in this post).
Here is what to expect at the Boston Pops Kids Holiday Matinee:
The Hall. Boston’s historic Symphony Hall (built in 1900) is among the best music venues in the world! With its shallow balconies, statue-filled niches and beautiful coffered ceiling (all specially constructed so as not to trap the sound), it does not need much decorations to inspire the music lovers. Yet, the Symphony becomes ever so special for the holidays. Many patrons add to the festive occasion by dressing in their holidays’ best (kids included). Ourselves, we were dressed in holiday “casuals”, but if you feel festive, don’t be afraid to show it – as many people will.
Boston Symphony Hall: the balconies dressed for the holidays
The Pops. For those new to Boston Symphony Hall, the Boston Pops is Boston Symphony’s second identity, playing light classical and popular music during December holiday season and in the spring. New in 2018: For the Kids holiday performances this December, the Pops were accompanied by the Boston Symphony Children’s Choir (with conductor James Burton). The children opened the program with Oh Khanuka song to the absolute delight of my daughter who herself has recently joined the chorus in her elementary school. “They are much better than our school’s chorus!” she admitted.
Pops long-time conductor Keith Lockhart himself was leading the concert, addressing the audience, talking about the season of light from both Jewish and Christian perspectives and remembering his own family holiday traditions.
Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart during one of the many lighter moments in the show (photo taken in 2016) (There was a “no photo” announcement this year so I am keeping my 2016 photos here).
The Kids. This is a family concert so expect a lot of kids. And when I say kids, I mean babies in arms, toddlers, and elementary schoolers (kids ages two and under attend for free). Surprisingly for this type of crowd, I was never disturbed or heard anyone crying or otherwise misbehaving (strategic acoustics?). And when a little boy from the audience decided to run towards Santa (as Santa was making his way around the tables – heading for the stage), it was all good and cute and really just part of the … Kids Holiday Matinee at the Pops!
The Program. Updated Pops Christmas Story this year was performed by vocalist Renese King with illustrations by the treasured children’s books author Tomie de Paola projected onto the giant screen (“Our teacher told us about him in school,” my daughter told me with delight). This year’s program was big on beautiful illustrations: Parade of the Wooden Soldiers was accompanied by original animations made by Boston’s own FableVision studios. And of course, kids’ sing-alongs are always part of the program (Jingle Bells, Rudolph-the red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman). (Lyrics are projected onto the screen and everyone is singing!)
Holiday Pos: Kids Matinee. Photo taken during our visit in 2016
There is of course awaited appearance of Santa (also known as Father Frost in the parts of the world where I am coming from). And – there are always surprises on the program. Congressman Joe Kennedy III was given the honor of narrating one of the stories on stage with his twin brother during the performance we attended last Sunday.
Cafe Seating. For the Boston Pops concerts, the first floor auditorium seating is traditionally reconfigured with café style tables. For the kids’ holiday matinees, special kids’ menus on each table were accompanied with pencils for drawing – and I observed many kids taking advantage of these touches. You can order from the full menu of hot and cold light dishes, fully packaged in a “to go” containers to prevent spills and the need for too much servicing. If you plan to order food, arrive early as ordering is encouraged prior to showtime. You can also just go festive (and simple) and order Champaign or (another beverage) and cheese platter. My daughter ordered the entire cookie menu while I went for lobster sandwiches. They were very good!
Milk and cookies go a long way during holiday performance to keep their attention and holiday spirits intact. But if you prefer to keep your musical concerts food-free, go with balcony seating (it is also a cheaper option!).
First Floor Cafe style seating during Boston Pops Holidays Show
In 2016 my daughter expressed interest in posing with Santa after the performance – this is one tradition she has outgrown this year.
The Show is 70 minutes-long without an intermission.
Remaining shows in 2018: December 15, 16,18, 22, 23 and 24th.
Kids two and under attend for free but need a ticket. We were guests of the Boston Symphony. For tickets go to Boston Symphony website.
For the tips on attending Boston Symphony’s summer lawn concerts at Tanglewood in the Berkshires with your kids, read this post.
When we saw a ticket option with an 8-hour stopover in Lisbon on the way back to the U.S. from our Eastern European trip this summer, we joyfully went for it. This would be our first visit to Lisbon and Portugal; and – after re-visiting some memorable places from our youth on this trip, it would be our chance to see something completely new before returning home. We had about five hours to get a taste of this colorful city – enough to know that we want to come back one day soon. In the meantime, this is how our day unraveled.
Arrival and Airport Formalities
Our flight arrived in Lisbon at 9:30 am and (in less than an hour!) by 10:30 am we were in a taxi on our way to Belem. By that time we have passed security, exchanged money and dropped our luggage at the storage (behind the Starbucks in the arrival hall). With our next flight scheduled to depart at 5:30 pm and an airport being only 15-minute drive away from the city we had at least FOUR AND HALF HOURS TO EXPLORE LISBON.
With close to five hours we went for our “Plan A”: see a couple of neighborhoods, have both lunch and coffee breaks- equipped with Steve Rick’s Lisbon book and a plan to follow, we knew we could hit all goals and have fun doing it! If you have less than 4 hours, go for “Plan B” – stick to Alfama and/or Baixa (these are neighboring areas so you could even cross from one to the other to experience different “flavors” of the city even on a very short break).
11am: Belem Tower (Torre de Belem)
Our taxi dropped us at the Belem Tower (built in 1520), five miles west of downtown Lisbon. This iconic Lisbon landmark was the sending off point for the mariners during the Age of Discovery. We took the pictures, but climbing the stairs to get inside the tower was not on our plan today (prepare for a line). Instead, we took a 20-minute stroll along the river towards the Monastery of Jeronimos.
You will have to detour around the lovely marina:
The monument commemorating Discoveries will be on your right before you will get ready to cross the street to the Monastery. But next on our agenda was coffee at the Pastelia de Belem – the birthplace of the custard tard.
11:30am: Coffee and Pasteles in Belem
The place is crowded but once you find your way inside and to the end of the line to be seated- it passes within minutes. The menu includes coffee and tea and various pastries fresh from the oven. We were here of course for the original Pasteles de Belem and they did not disappoint.
Pasteles de Belem
From here, we took an uber to the highest point in Alfama, Castle Sao Jorge.
12:30pm: Alfama Walk
If you get delayed at the airport and only have a couple of hours in the city, head straight to Alfama, one of the most atmospheric neighborhoods in Europe and the oldest district in Lisbon.
For a quick stop over visit, we did not plan to get inside the Castle, but unfortunately, the Castle viewpoint is positioned behind the ticketed entrance. Not to despair, there will be other viewpoints on the walk. We loosely followed Steve Rick’s Aflama walk from his book to the viewpoint (Miradouro) Largo Santa Luzia– my favorite viewpoint of the day!
Largo Santa Luzia
It would not be a travel day without a selfie!
One of the main reasons the Alfama survived the devastating 1755 earthquake was the labyrinth-like layout of its streets. So allowing ourselves to get lost and wonder around for a bit was a part of our neighborhood immersion, even if only for 30 minutes.
Getting lost in Alfama
Another important experience was finding an authentic looking place for a local specialty of grilled sardines.
1:30pm: Lunch in Alfama
Somehow we found our way to Plaza Sao Miguel- the heart of the neighborhood.
We continued heading down and turned right to follow the street (and moving parallel to the river on our left) to the Baixo neighborhood and Praco do Commercio (Commercial Square).
2:30pm Commercial Square, Baixa
Commercial Square (water front)
Commercial Square (Arc de Triumph)
I loved how different this grand square looked and felt from Alfama, with its military-like alignment of same size buildings on three sides (these are government ministries, constructed after the 1775 earthquake), a statute of King Jorge in the middle facing the river and Arc de Triumph in the back serving as a geteway to Baixa and newer town. The square housed the Royal Palace for 200 some years before the quake; but afterwords, the king found Belem to be a safer place to live.
Now we had 30 or so minutes before a taxi to the airport and I thought the perfect way to spend it… would be to hire a Tuk-Tuk to get us up through the Arc and to the next Square over- the Rossio.
Tuk-Tuks in Lisbon
Tuk-Tuks are 3 or 6 person 3-wheel motorcycles often operated as individual private businesses. Our driver chose to “neglect” my direction to the Rossio and instead took us to a 360-degree Our Lady of the Hill viewpoint over Baixa (and even the Atlantic in the distance). There was no reason to get upset over this view, but do remember that your Tuk-Tuk experience would largely depend on the personality of your driver, so try to establish a quick rapport to see if there is a fit.
Our Lady of the Hill viewpoint over Baixa
3:45pm: taxi to the airport
Our driver dropped us in front of a central hotel somewhere in Baixa with taxis lined up so the airport ride was smooth and we arrived around 4pm with a comfortable cushion of time before our 5:30 flight back to the States.
If you are staying for more than a couple of hours and to book your accommodations, you may want to stay central in the Baixa area. We typically use Booking.com (if you book via this link, it won’t cost you any extra to book but a small commission will be used to support this site).
Have you ever done a stop-over on the way to your destination? Tell us about it in the comments!
Last weekend the forecast promised a hot mid-September day, our kids had the plans of their own, and we found ourselves on the market for a “couple’s day” away ideas. Living in a Boston suburb, there are day trips possibilities in any direction, but the plan did not seem to fall into place until … the island of Martha’s Vineyard came to mind.
Taking our car on the ferry. This time we decided to take our car with us – which could only be done from Woods Hole via Steamship Authority ($85 each way including 2-passenger tickets). (A much cheaper, but also much less convenient option would be to go without a car and take a public transportation on the island). In the summer you need to book a ride for your car several months ahead, but in September calling or reserving online a day or two ahead works. It was actually pretty cool and convenient to drive onto the ship in our own car, not to spend a minute extra getting out of the ship and not to worry about parking in Woods Hole (should you decide to leave your car behind, there is a remote parking lot in Woods Hole to where you are transported via free shuttle, but it takes extra time and energy, especially after a long day of travelng).
From Woods Hole, it only takes about 40 minutes to reach the island (arriving either in Oak Bluffs or Vineyard Haven).
AQUINNAH CLIFFSPHOTO ESSAY
It was a gorgeous summer-like day on the island, so we decided to spend it on the beach and drove straight to the Aquinnah- the western-most village on the island (40-minute drive from Oak Bluffs). The Moshup’s Beach by the Aquinnah Cliffs is part of the Wampanoag Reservation land and is a National Historic Landmark. It is our favorite place on the island and arguably its biggest attraction.
Aquinnah Cliffs, Martha’s Vineyard
If you have not felt like being miles away from reality already, you certainly will find your piece of tranquility on this beach. We found ours and did not let go of it for most of the day – basking in the last warm rays of the summer sun and cooling off in the ocean (well, at least one of us was cooling, as the water was too cool for me). The isolation and natural beauty of this beach is “countered” by the lack of any facility near water, so be sure to use the bathroom at the parking lot and bring your water and snacks with you.
As we were child-free this time, we were able to freely walk away from the “family” area (around the beach entrance) for a good mile along the cliffs, to where people (or rather a few people that you would find there) would be clothed (or unclothed) to their liking. These are the photos of the sacred cliffs we brought back for you to admire.
The next stop on our short itinerary of the day was sunset with the drinks as taken in from the outdoor deck of the Aquinnah Shop restaurant (27 Aquinnah Circle) hidden at the end of the souvenir shops alley. Apparently, even off-season, with its 180-degrees views of the ocean and the best position on the island to watch the sun disappear into the water, it was a very popular destination this time of the day. Take my tip and make a reservation! Without one, we had a lot of convincing to do before a hostess finally allowed us to proceed to a hidden side bar of the terrace.
Sunset over Aquinnah
After so much trouble getting the coveted spots (the views were spectacular) we decided to stay for dinner (the meal of sautéed strip bass with a side of lobster mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables was amazing).
With our ferry leaving from Vineyard Haven at 9:30pm, we now only had about 30 minutes or so for a planned Main street walk in Edgartown, the most “upscale” village on the island which we thought would be suitable for a night walk. We passed several trendy looking restaurants, but not a single tea or coffee shop we desired. We had tea on the ferry instead. It was a very smooth ride.
UPDATE 2018: With balmy September and October weekends you may want to take advantage of smaller crowds and no wait time to take your vehicle onto a ferry to Martha Vineyard with you. We went for another marvelous day trip today- this time with our car. As we found out, on Cape Cod you can only take your vehicle on a ferry via Steamship Authority from Woods Hole. You do need to make a reservation, but in mid-September, we booked only a day ahead.
Those of you who visit our site often know my passion for day trips. Some may call it a cabin fever, but I call it an ADVENTURE THAT IS ALWAYS NEAR YOU. So it was only natural that we took a day trip to the island of Martha’s Vineyard during our recent stay in Hyannis on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Martha Vineyard is an island seven miles off the southern coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, measuring 100 square miles (260 km). Although well known as a summer colony, it has a year-round population of about 17,000. There are six towns: Tisbury (including village of Vineyard Haven, island’s commercial center), Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, West Tisbury, Chilmark (including fishing village of Menemsha) and Aquinnah.
Over our 25 years living in Massachusetts, we have visited Martha’s Vineyard (as a family and on a couple’s retreat) a number of times, but when my seven-year-old daughter Vi reminded me that she has never visited the island, I realized that it was our time to return.
Our Martha’s Vineyard day trip.
Getting to an island is of course half the adventure! We took a 9am Hy-Line’s Vineyard Lady high-speed ferry from Hyannis on a recent Saturday in August and made it to Oak Bluffs on the island at 10am. 300-passenger boat was packed but not full (reservations are recommended in the summer). We sat on the outside deck to take in the views of Hyannis harbor and when the sun became too much to deal with we retreated to an air-conditioned inside area with comfortable airplane style seating (there are two inside decks, with a full serving bar on a lower deck).
Hyannis Harbor, view from Hy-Line’s speed ferry Vineyard Lady
Fresh off the ferry, we first headed to nearby Vineyard Haven to get a hold of our rental car reserved at Hertz on Water street, right by the harbor (we used Martha Vineyard Transit Authority bus – see more details on how to get around the island at the end of the post).
Having filled up on beach picnic supplies in the town’s grocery store, we proceeded straight to Aquinnah Cliffs in the town of Aquinnah, our main destination of the day. The Moshup’s Beach by the Aquinnah Cliffs is arguably the best beach on the island, if not on the entire Cape Cod. It takes about 40 minutes to reach Aquinnah by car from either Oak Bluffs or Vineyard Haven.
As you approach the Aquinnah Cliffs, you may want to check out Aquinnah Light House on your right. It is still functional and you can climb up to the top (we headed straight to the beach this time.)
We parked in the lot just off Aquinnah Circle (on the right, $20 all day or hourly). From there, a 10-minute walk takes you to Moshup’s Beach just below the cliffs. This area, starting with the walk, has a magical power to take my mind miles away. (The “trade off” for that wonderful feeling is an absence of any vendors and facilities at the beach, so be sure to use one near the parking lot and bring your picnic and water supplies to the beach with you).
Walk to the beach. Aquinnah.
The brightly colored clay cliffs are sacred to the Wampanoag Indian tribe (long-time Aquinnah residents) and are a National Historic Landmark. It is forbidden to climb the cliffs or touch the clay.
The ocean water is of particular aqua color here!
We frolicked in the water amidst other families. The water temperature was surprisingly swimmable even despite our attachment to the warmth of Nantucket sound on Hyannis beaches. (Families planning to do long walks along the cliffs may want to know that there are “unofficial” clothing optional areas further away from the beach entrance. When on the island…).
Our next stop was lunch at Aquinnah Shop restaurant (27 Aquinnah Circle) hidden at the end of the souvenir shops alley. The food was good (I had lobster roll), but 180-degree ocean views from the terrace are the reason I come back to this place! (and the island!).
Next to the restaurant, is an observation deck with signs and a monument commemorating the history of Wampanoag Indians on the island.
View from the observation deck, Aquinnah
It was 3 pm when we got back to our car. Our return ferry to Hyannis was scheduled to depart at 6:45pm from Oak Bluffs, so we decided to spend the afternoon in Oak Bluffs and look at iconic Gingerbread Houses. (Fishing village of Menemsha, and the town of Edgartown – with fun harbor and main street – were the other options we considered.)
The tiny houses with unique architecture in the center of Oak Bluffs are part of historic Martha Vineyard Campmeeting Association (MVCMA), once the biggest religious community of its kind dating back to the 1800. MVCMA is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and continues to celebrate its historic and religious roots. The houses are individually owned and are available for weekly rent– see information on the MVCMA website.
The number of these small houses (they were inspired by the tents they replaced) have decreased over the years, but there are some 318 cottages remaining.
The Tabernacle stage in the center of the MVCMA is the largest concert venue on the island. In the summer they host free outdoor entertainment events for the whole family.
The Flying Carousel
We never miss a carousel when we travel with Vi and Flying Carousel, the National Landmark as the oldest running platform carousel in the country – is not to be missed! Constructed in 1876 it was moved to Oak Bluffs from Coney Island, NY in 1884, where it has lived in its red barn ever since (it is now owned and maintained by the preservation trust which makes sure that the horses feature real horsehair manes and tails!). The highlight of every ride is the chance to grab the lucky brass ring.
Vi is enjoying her ride on the oldest carousel horse in the country
OAK BLUFFS HARBOR
Oak Bluffs has beautiful open harbor with an Ocean Bandstand in the center of the waterfront lawn.
We walked to the town’s beach just past the Steamship Authority pier. Its just off the boat location is easily accessible by the day trippers and swimmers here enjoy the warm waters of Nantucket sound, but in my opinion, there are many more beautiful beaches on the island that are worth the effort to get there. (Here is a link to island’s beaches).
Oak Bluffs’ Town Beach
Waterfront lawn. Oak Bluffs.
We spent our last hour of island living chilling at the waterfront Coop de Ville right at the Dockside Pier next to the Hy-Line ferry landing. If that is not an island life I don’t know what is!
To sample the island living for yourself, here is what you need to know:
Getting there. There are several companies operating ferry services from locations in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Manhattan, NY – arriving either at Oak Bluffs or Vineyard Haven on the island. If you are staying in mid or upper Cape Cod, a ferry from Hyannis would be most convenient. We took the Hy-Line’s 9 am High-Speed ferry boat from Hyannis that brought us to the island in exactly one hour. (it is the only commercial option in Hyannis). Check the seasonal schedule and fairs here. (adult $59 round trip, kids 5-12 $29.50). Steamship Authority runs the shortest (and cheapest) route from Falmouth (Woods Hole) on lower Cape Cod on larger ferries (some take cars). Be sure to account for for shuttle time to and from parking lots.
Getting around. Once on the island, there are several ways to get around.
Option 1. You can bring your own car ($87.50 and up depending on the car size, you would have to reserve the space on one of Steamship Authority ferries from Falmouth – the Hy-Line speed ferries from Hyannis do not take cars).
Option 2. Car rental at the pier in the town of your arrival (it is probably best to call ahead.) We used Hertz, located in Vineyard Haven. (There are several rental companies at Oak Bluffs pier as well.)
Option 3.Martha Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) ($1.25 per town, each way, including town of origin) offers several bus routes between the towns. We have used them during this trip between Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven to get to our car rental. Unfortunately, there are no buses that would take you directly to Aquinnah from Oak Bluffs or Vineyard Haven – you could switch buses, of course, but in my opinion it is too hectic on a day trip. So if you would like to explore Aquinnah, options 1 and 2 would be best.
Option 4. There are tour companies (with large buses and van options) that can take you from your ferry around the island in under three hours.
Gymnastics is my life-long passion. It is also one of my favorite ways to celebrate the weekend! And what a celebration of the sport it has been this past weekend in Boston at the 2018 U.S. Championships.
My daughter and I in the stands in Boston’s TD Garden
Alive and Kicking!
Gymnastics fans from all over the world tuned in to grasp the state of American women’s gymnastics team which has dominated the sport over the last four Olympic cycles (with the all-around titles in the last four Olympics, the team title in the last two, and all all-around World titles since 2011). With no team training center and no national team coordinator for a good portion of the year following the biggest scandal in sports history, the team’s status was a big unknown to the fans and federations around the world. Two days of amazing routines later (with the entire new senior national team – eight members- performing eight clean routines each over the two competition days ) – the answer is clear. American women’s gymnastics is very much alive and kicking!
“Success of the program is not in the national camp staff,” – said Paul Ziert, publisher of International Gymnast magazine. “It’s the individual club coaches that know how to develop the gymnasts. Many clubs now have World and Olympic champions, they know how to get the job done!”
I compared the technical difficulty scores at the recent European championships with the scores in Boston and U.S. women’s team is way ahead of the competition on three events out of four: Simone Biles’ and Jade Carey’s 6.7 and 6.3, respectively, on floor; Simone’s 6.5 and Kara Eaker’s 6.4 on beam, Simone’s 6.0 vault (with a near-perfect execution!) and Jade’s potential “arsenal” of vaults. And even on the uneven bars, U.S.’s traditionally weaker event, Biles’ 6.2 was close to Europe’s best difficulty, while Riley McCusker’s final 14.8 set could rival the best “European” bars lines.
Jade Carey on floor. Day 1
Simone (and Sam)!
When I asked Ziert (over a lovely dinner in Boston’s North End) how he would remember these Championships – in one word, he exclaimed: “Simone!” IG Editor Christian Ivanov added: “Simone and Sam!” Simone Biles and Sam Mikulak dominated women’s and men’s competitions respectively, each winning their fifth all-around national title. Over the two days’ of competition (the two days’ scores are combined) Sam was ahead of the second place (2017 the Floor World medalist) Yul Moldauer by more than 4.5 points and Simone won over second place finisher (2017 World all-around champion) Morgan Hurd by six and a half points!
Simone Biles performing her floor routine during day 1 of U.S. Championships 2018
Both Sam and Simone have returned after spending time off the competition floor. Having dominated the last Olympic cycle (which culminated in winning five medals -four of them Gold- in Rio) Simone’s comeback is the biggest global story in the world of gymnastics right now. She won all four events with the upgraded routines in Boston (yes, including her “weakest” – the uneven bars) and she is now better and stronger than in Rio!
Simone is showing near perfect form on bars, day 1
Stars of the Show
While Simone stole the show in Boston, she was not the only star in it! Morgan Hurd was a deserving and consistent second place finisher (performing slightly downgraded difficulty) and Riley McCasker overtook the judges and the audience alike with her perfect balletic positions and spirited performances (what a comeback from an injury and falls-prone last season!)
Favorite Competition Moments
I love the suspense of sports competition and there were plenty of moments to keep me (and the rest of the TD Garden’s audience on the edge of our seats). How about Yul Moldauer’s climb from six place following day one to second place overall! Yul started the “rise” after the third rotation (the floor exercise) -he was now third and then climbed to second after the fourth rotation, a position he kept through the finish of day 2. Yul was followed on the podium by Allan Bower in third place, who was rock solid for two days!
Another fun competition unraveled during the junior women’s day 2, when three of the top scorers (Sunisa Lee, Skye Blakely, and Kayla Di Cello) tied for second place following 7th rotation (out of 8 of the two-day meet). Di Cello went on to win the all-around silver medal place following her spectacular double twisting Yurchenko vault. Lee was third and Leanne Wong (from Gage) won the gold.
In sports there are no celebrations without defeats and it was not all roses for some of the competitors.2017 U.S. Champion Regan Smith, one of the gymnasts I came to cheer for at this meet, had a lackluster performance to finish tenth in the all-around. This is the girl who was second (by only one of a thousand of the point) to Japan’s Mai Murakami following 2017 Montreal Worlds’ Qualification round. (Regan did not get to compete in the all-around in Montreal as she injured her ankle in the warm-ups just minutes before the all-around competition). I am not sure whether it is the lingering injury, the growth spurt or something else, but I surely hope Regan gets an invitation to train with the team and work on her confidence to have a chance at making the Tokyo 2020 team.
Another person with a disappointing meet was Jordan Chiles, who was second in the all-around at the 2017 Championships (and many felt deserving to be on the Montreal World team). Chiles was actually a leader after the very first rotation (she earned 15 for her new Amanar on vault to Simone’s 14,450 on floor).
On the mens’ side, one of my favorites, (and a co-winner of sports person of the year award) Akash Modi went from second (on day one) to sixth place following day two, but he was named to the national team and the Worlds selection camp so he will surely have another chance to prove himself this season.
The Voices in the Stands
Was it worth it paying (not cheap!) ticket prices to attend the events live? My answer is: absolutely! I loved the set up at the TD Garden arena (this is where my sports blogging passion has been ignited at the 2016 Figure Skating Worlds!). You could see perfectly from as high as 18 row of the loge (my family’s seats during day 1 of senior women’s competition). The audience on day 2 was nearing eight and a half thousands and it was so special to be a part of the roar celebrating Simone’s near-perfect final vault set (she earned 9.6 – the highest execution score of the meet) and Morgan’s final tumbling pass of her floor routine which happened to be the final routine of the 4-day competition.
My neighbors in the stands were gymnastics families from neighboring Connecticut, the fans from New Jersey cheering for their ever elegant MG Elite juniors and seniors, the coaches from Louisiana, and the family of GAGE coaches Armine Barytyan (former Soviet national team member) and Al Fong, whose pupil Leanne Wong became the junior national champion and Kara Eaker made the senior national team. As Armine was blowing kisses to her daughter (who was sitting next to me) in the stands following the competition, I felt… a part of the big gymnastics family and a part of the celebration!
Another neighbor – Nicole Longevin – the owner of Precision Choreography – was telling me about her experience timing the touch warm-ups on the beam (“there were hardly any falls and nothing for her to do,” she complained jokingly).
Riley McKusker is getting ready for her floor routine on day 2
There was nothing like feeling the arena’s energy right before the beginning of the meet, observing your favorite gymnast’s personality and how she gets into the “zone” before her performance, or how she cheers on her friends’ and competitors and receives the last-minute coaching…
One of the arena moments: Simone’s coaches Laurent and Cecile Landi are helping to secure Simone’s competition number to her leotard
And look, here is Simone waving back at someone in the crowd (at the competition of her eighth’ routine, of course)! These are the things you only get to experience live at the arena and I cannot wait for the gymnastics competition to come to the city near me!
Luckily for me, I enjoyed the competition as the guest of USA Gymnastics.
We spend a family summer weekend in the Massachusetts Berkshires every year but we haven’t had a chance for a couple’s escape to the region in a long time. So we aimed to make the very best of our 24 hours in Lenox last weekend! Here is how it all unraveled.
ROMANTIC NIGHT IN TANGLEWOOD
Tanglewood is the place to be in the summer- for couples and families
We left Boston at 4 pm on a Friday afternoon and headed straight to Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox (it’s a 2-3 hour drive depending on traffic). For me, Massachusetts summer is just not the same without a visit to Tanglewood, summer home of Boston Symphony and Boston Pops orchestras with a rich multi-genre programming. To experience Tanglewood with a family- day time concerts are best (and summer Sundays have enhanced family pre-concert offerings- read all about it here), but for a couple’s date night- I recommend (Friday or Saturday) evening performances. Other parents seem to agree with me as there were barely any kids attending the evening performance last Friday. (it got chilly at the second part so be sure to come with a sweater).
We had the lawn tickets (courtesy of the Boston Symphony Orchestra) and a picnic was a big part of our evening.
Our visit coincided with Opening Night (July 6) in Tanglewood with Conductor Andris Nelson leading Boston Symphony to perfection in their performance of Mozart and Tchaikovsky. World famous pianist Lang Lang’s Encore of Chopin’s Nocturnal was simply mesmerizing. Here is a line-up of Tanglewood performances for the rest of the summer.
THE ART OF LOUNGING (in historic inns)
With theater show in the afternoon, I wanted our Saturday morning to be all about relaxation, coffee and lounging (not necessarily in that order). I did not really plan a historic inn hopping that followed, but my quest for perfection in relaxation (and coffee) often brings me to amazing places.
Cranwell Resort, Lenox
We started our mini-journey at the Cranwell Resort in Lenox. We admired its hilltop Tudor-style century old centerpiece mansion and the views of the Berkshires. We later learned that Reverend Beecher (brother of Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe) who himself was active in the women’s suffrage and the anti-slavery movements and at some point even had presidential aspirations, was one of the original owners of the property.
There is a golf course (which turns into a cross-country ski trail in the winter) and a famous spa (one of the largest in the Northeast). Despite the beauty of the property, we could still see route 20 in the distance from the restaurant terrace and decided to continue our search for complete and utterly relaxation.
Which brought us to…the center of Main street Stockbridge, and our old favorite, Red Lion Inn.
Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge
It is located on the relatively busy street in the center of Stockbridge (straight from the Norman Rockwell painting), but we have been enjoying our coffees on its terrace for years (and not just us- the Inn has hosted five U.S. presidents, including both Roosevelts). Built in 1773, it is the oldest inn in the country in the continuous operation. Originally just a rest stop for the carriages traveling between Albany and Boston, it is now a revered place to sleep and eat in the Berkshires (or to have coffee and people-watch on the porch). Unfortunately for us, the coffee service on the porch starts after noon, so we had to move on.
It was now time for lunch and we stumbled upon the name Blantyre in the brochure – which seemed to work with the theme of the morning – so there we went!
Newly renovated Blantyre
This Gilded Age mansion (1901) has been “recently refurbished for a new age of Gilded Grandeur”, said the brochure. And we knew that it was true the moment we entered its welcoming beautifully decorated new-old common rooms.
Just outside the lobby area – on the porch overlooking the Berkshire hills, we knew that we found what we were looking for all morning and stayed for lunch and coffee. And then some hammock lounging.
Relaxing at the Blantyre
DATE WITH THE THEATER
Shakespeare and Company Theater, Lenox
We are partial to the magic of the Shakespeare and Co, a multi-functional theater complex we have toured (backstage) last summer. This time we were invited to for Morning after Grace (in production through July 15) on the intimate Elayne P. Bernstein stage (featuring Corinna May, Kevin Vavasseur and Steven Barkhimer). It is a farce of second changes, a play- according to its director Regge Life- about “real things and real people”. There are only three characters in it and you quickly feel at home -and happy to spend the next two hours with. It was not “all roses”, but we left the theater feeling light and with a desire to be back.
The Company’s mission is built on “exploring the universal themes of human experience” – in Shakespeare’s and modern plays alike.
Contemporary plays Creditors by August Strindberg (July 19-August 12) and Mothers and Sons (August16-September 9) by Terrence McNally move in later in the season; and there is of course always Shakespearean presence. This year it is Macbeth (July 3-August 5) and Love’s Labor’s Lost which we plan to come to see with the kids. It is a family-friendly staging of the classic performed at the Mount Estate of writer Edith Wharton (where the house and garden are a treat of their own). Here is a calender for the rest of the summer.
The Mount will host the outdoor family-friendly production of Love’s Labor Lost this summer
Where we stayed. Finding reasonably-priced lodging to experience all this goodness in the summer is not an easy task in the Berkshires. This time we have used our HH points at the newish Hampton Inn in Lenox and were pleasantly surprised by the size of the rooms. Check out this review of another property we stayed in in one of our visits- Seven Hill Inn located right next to the Mount.
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We are linking up with the travel bloggers from around the world at #TheWeeklyPostcard
4th of July “officially” starts a busy summer of concerts and performances within 1-2 hour drive from Boston. Here is my best of summer Open AirEvents in and around Boston (many are free to the public).
1. Harborwalk Sounds series brings the city’s most talented young musicians and dancers to Boston waterfront for Institute of Contemporary Art’s (ICA) Free Thursday Nights: all July and August (in partnership with Berklee School of Music). The concerts start at 6:30pm and you can check the summer line-up here. This is a great way to spend a summer night in the city, especially if combined with a free ICU entrance (5-9pm every Thursday)! We have not had a chance to visit the event, but hoping to do so this summer.
2. Berklee Summer in the City Concert Series
Numerous free musical performances are offered throughout the Greater Boston area from May through September as part of the Summer in the City concert series. Here is a listing ofall events. Enjoy world-class performances while visiting favorite Boston destinations, including Atlantic Wharf, Boston Harbor Islands and Boston Common Park.
3. Shakespeare in the Park
Commonwealth Shakespeare Company continues its Boston summer tradition of Free Shakespeare On The Common (in its 23rd season this year) with “Richard III“at Parkman Bandstand in Boston Common.
FREE fully-staged productions are Tuesday-Saturday at 8pm, Sundays at 7pm; July 18-August 5th. More information about this program here.
Another outdoor Shakespeare summer production – Love’s Labor’s Lost – is happening this summer July 10-August 18 at the Mount (writer Edith Wharton’s estate in the Berkshires). This family friendly event is staged by Shakespeare and Company Theater of Lenox, MA (tickets are $10-15, more info here).
Gardens of the Mount, Estate of Writer Edith Wharton
4. WaterFires in Providence, RI
You have to cross the border into Rhode Island (Providence) for this one and it is a different type of performance– but it is well worth it. The lighting occurs shortly after sunset and the braziers remain lit until half past midnight. Here is summer 2018 SCHEDULE of full and partial lightings. FULL installations light up 80+ braziers from Waterplace Park to Memorial/South Main Street Park – and the next full show is on July 14. Note that fire marshal’s regulations do not permit folding chairs to be set up on any of the river walks (for safe passage of all the visitors) – so prepare to stroll.
5. Tanglewood Music Festival in the Berkshires
Our family’s summer is not complete without attending a concert at Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox (Massachusetts Berkshires). Tanglewood is summer home of Boston Symphony and Boston Pops Orchestras, as well as numerous guest performers of various musical genres. Read our post about Tanglewood for families here highlighting special family experiences throughout the summer. Tanglewood is approximately a 2-hour drive of Boston, so day trips are possible. Lawn tickets start at $10 (free for kids under 17). HERE is a link to a full summer 2018 program.
Vi and friend Sasha at a Tanglewood concert last summer
6. Free Summer Dance Performances at Jacobs Pillow (Becket, MA)
If you are planning your visit to the Berkshires for longer than a day, be sure to visit Jacobs Pillow – national historical landmark and a site of America’s longest-running international dance festival. The festival not only brings world’s leading dance companies to the Berkshires every summer, but offers free outdoor performances via its Inside/Out Series on Wednesdays-Saturdays during the Festival. Be sure to check out the grounds tours and pre-show talks.
Inside/Out Performance at Jacobs Pillow a couple of summers ago
7. Family Beach Concerts at Easton Beach, Newport, RI
There is nothing wrong with spending your summer at the beach, but it is even more fun when you could enjoy a family concert at the end of your day in the sun. One of my favorite beaches within a driving distance from Boston, Newport‘s Easton Beach offers Family Night Concert Series on Tuesdays at 6 and Thursdaynight Children’s programming. Check out this summer’s schedule HERE. (Free carousel rides are a big draw during these special family programs.)
Easton Beach is located at the end of the world famous cliff walk with its beautiful ocean vistas and access to historical Newport Mansions.
8.ThursdayConcert Series at Crane Estate in Ipswich, MA
The Crane Estate (in the care of the Trustees of Reservations) is celebrating 22 years of Picnic Concerts this summer. They invite you to bring a picnic supper, explore the grounds, dance on the lawn, and experience some of the region’s best bands. The season begins on July 5 with Jambalaya Horns—New Orleans Street Jazz. Here is the entire concert schedule (and ticket prices) for summer 2018.
Crane Estate, Ipswich
Newport Music Festivalcelebrates its 50th Anniversary Season from July 4 through July 22, 2018 with 42 concerts and events showcasing Grammy winners and nominees, acclaimed international artists, and beloved resident artists.
Attending a Museum on a Friday- for FREE! Numerous Massachusetts Museums open their doors for FREE on each Friday in the summer (a project by Highland Street Foundation) June 29-August 29.
What is your favorite summer outdoor event in and around Boston?
For me, attending Boston Ballet’s performances is not only about admiring one of the leading and oldest American ballet companies, but also about spending time with my loved ones. I carefully “plan” my Boston Ballet season by choosing which family member I will invite on which ballet outing with me. I shared Romeo & Juliet with my son in March (on his college spring break) and tried to de-code Wayne McGregor’s Obsidian Tear with my husband early in the season.
End of Boston Ballet’s season this year is busy with two alternating productions at the Opera House to claim our weekends and celebrate the company’s versatility. Classic Balanchine opened last week (May 17- June 9, 2018) and Le Sylphide is on stage May 25th-June 10. Which means (among many other things) that you could have several dates at the ballet with your favorite people.
Date Night One:Classic Balanchine (May 17- June 9, 2018)
I took my husband to see Classic Balanchine with me last week because I appreciate his view on modern choreography. Not that you would need help interpreting the works of Balanchine – the most “classical” of all contemporary choreographers. The 3-ballet program highlighting Balanchine’s long and prolific career starts with a story ballet Prodigal Son (first performed in 1929, score by S. Prokofiev); followed by Stravinsky Violin Concerto (revised choreography from 1972) and concludes with the festive Chaconne (premiered in 1976, score by von Gluck).
My husband’s favorite of the three programs was Prodigal Son. It was both seductive, and funny, and above all showed superb technical mastery and ahtleticism (with elements from circus and gymnastics) by principals Lia Cirio and Derek Dunn.
I was impressed that my date was able to pick on the “dissonances” (also referred to as “asymmetry” by the Globe dance critic) of the Stravinsky Violin Concerto’s cleverly intertwined into the contrasting lines of the choreography – most notably, the two famous pas de deux .
My favorite piece of the evening was Chaconne – with its airy and lyrical movements and ballerinas’ flowing hair. I also could not help but admire Misa Kuranaga’s glides across the stage. Our other favorite performers of the night were Marina Baranova in Concerto and Lia Cirio and Derek Dunn in the Prodigal Son.
Interesting Fact 1. Balanchine (1904–1983) was born in Russia; among his many influences on American dance (he created more than 400 works!) is his critical role in the founding of Boston Ballet (in 1963).
Interesting Fact 2. A chaconne is a dance built on a short phrase in the bass that was often used by composers of the 17th and 18th centuries to end an opera in a festive mood.
Date Night Two: La Sylphide (May 25th-June 10)
Inspired by the successful (despite it being mid-week) evening with my husband at the Classic Balanchine, I took my 8-year old daughter to see La Sylphide with me. It is a two-part program of the works of the 19th century Danish dancer and choreographer August Bournonville– rarely performed divertissements and 2-act ballet La Sylphide in the second part.
My daughter found the folk dances of the divertissements quite entertaining: Jockey Dance (from Siberia to Moscow), Tarantella from Napoli, Flower Festival in Genzano- are inspired by Bournonville’s many travels and are based on refreshing (“free-footed”) technique.
Boston Ballet in August Bournonville’s Napoli; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy Boston Ballet
The title ballet La Sylphide, however, was a bit difficult for an 8-year old to follow. It did not help that she got scared by the “shenanigans” of the village sorceress Madge. (This is Madge, you might get scared too!)
sorceress MadgeMaria Alvarez in August Bournonville’s La Sylphyde. Photo Rosaline O’Connor. Courtesy of Boston Ballet.
Set in the Scottish Highlands, La Sylphide is one is of the world’s oldest ballets (first performed in 1836 by the Royal Danish Ballet, current production uses additional choreography by a former Royal Danish Ballet dancer Sorella Englund). It is a story of a young Scotsman being overtaken by the elusive sylph on his wedding day. The Globe called it “one of the most psychologically complex” ballets. With its endlessly dreamy movements and philosophical undertones, La Sylphide would be more appropriate to share with your ballet-appreciating girlfriend or perhaps your Mom.
Misa Kuranaga weightlessly leaping through the stage (in the leading role of the Sylph on the opening night) is the reason alone to see it.
Misa Kuranaga in August Bournonville’s La Sylphide; photo by Rosalie O’Connor; courtesy of Boston Ballet
Fun Fact 3: August Bournonville (1805–1879) was a dancer and choreographer who directed the Royal Danish Ballet for nearly 50 years and established the Danish style based on bravura dancing and expressive mime.
A date night at the Boston Ballet is always fun, even if my daughter was slightly under-age for this performance
All performances of Classic Balanchine and La Sylphide will take place at the Boston Opera House.
La Sylphide (approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes long with two intermissions)
Saturday, May 26, 2018 at 1:30 pm
Friday, Jun 1, 2018 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, Jun 2, 2018 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, Jun 3, 2018 at 1:30 pm
Thursday, Jun 7, 2018 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, Jun 9, 2018 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, Jun 10, 2018 at 1:30 pm
Classic Balanchine (approximately 2 hours long with two intermissions)
Saturday, May 26 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, May 27 at 1:30 pm
Thursday, May 31 at 7:30 pm
Friday, June 8 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, June 9 at 1:30 pm
Tickets start at $35. For more information, visit bostonballet.org or call 617-695-6955.
As always, we thank Boston Ballet for inviting us to the performances to share our experience. All opinions are own own.